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The pain of integrations. What can a product company do to handle multiple integrations with a growing customer base?

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Intro

The ability to integrate your software with other products and services is a must for almost every IT solution, particularly for SaaS applications. Among others, it allows you to leverage data to its full potential. Still, many companies find themselves trapped with the rising costs of integrating their software with an increasing number of systems.

In this article, we share how you can approach integrations, all the while focusing on your core product and keeping operational costs as low as possible.

Sharing information – the main challenges

Many companies that offer proprietary IT products must integrate these products with their customers’ domain systems (i.e., share operational data in real time). Essentially, as the customer base grows, these companies become increasingly involved in developing and maintaining multiple custom integrations. 

Soon, they might be spending most of their resources and efforts on maintaining integrations with numerous external data sources or systems, instead of developing their core product functionality. 

The Wall Street Journal estimated the costs of maintaining IT systems at a whopping $4.1 trillion worldwide in 2021. A big chunk of these costs was associated with maintaining data systems, including keeping up with the growing number of integrations. 

With that in mind, here are a few considerations you must be aware of when it comes to managing multiple integrations:

  • Maintaining a dedicated infrastructure just for handling custom integrations is expensive and pays off only at scale. It requires significant time and effort on behalf of your tech team (i.e., your hiring and operational costs are on the rise). How much you can save by using an alternative solution for sharing information and data largely depends on your business case. To give a real-life example of savings, however, let’s refer to European startup Deor. The company chose Trusted Twin for their operational data and digital transformation partner. They’ve calculated that – if they built the entire operational data sharing layer from scratch – it would have cost them €1,000,000 over the span of two years.
  • A growing customer base could quickly convert a product company into a service company and ruin the initial business model. Not all companies can (technically and/or financially) afford or want to pivot their focus from developing their own product to maintaining custom integrations. In most cases, companies need to have a way of quickly deploying new customers, rather than get bogged down by the growing number of integrations. Ultimately, the goal of the business is to meet client needs and boost revenue and do so in an agile way.
  • Integrating different systems and technologies is always a challenge. You have to address issues like:
    • The variety of data sources (i.e., different structures, models, and technologies)
    • Data security and privacy. Firstly, your organization needs to be compliant with relevant regulations (for example, GDPR or HIPAA). Secondly, you must make sure that a breach in one of the integrated systems (i.e., external data sources) doesn’t endanger your system safety
    • Guaranteeing the availability of your services, as well as short and long-term scalability
    • Tacking siloed data; namely, making sure that your business doesn’t end up creating isolated data pockets functioning in each of the applications separately.

With these challenges laid out, let’s now see how you can best tackle sharing information and data between your product and other systems and external data sources.

Six things you can do to handle multiple integrations with a growing customer base

1. Use the right operational data sharing platform

Different organizations usually have custom IT systems. This creates a large burden for IT companies that offer products that rely on integrations on the operational data level. Introducing an operational data sharing platform like Trusted Twin can make tackling these issues a lot easier. How so? It allows you to separate the product and its development from the integrations. This is made possible by introducing a layer that defines common business objects (models) and offers multiple integration scenarios and technologies for other systems.

2. Focus on your core product, and outsource the rest

Developing and managing a dedicated infrastructure is not only time-consuming but also very costly. In fact, in 2020, 40% of global IT expenditure went towards integration services.

Source: Unsplash

Instead of continuously building custom integrations for each new system, it’s best to use a ready-made solution that will handle the integrations for you. It will save you the time and expenses needed to create and update your custom integrations. This, in turn, will support business growth, allowing you to stay focused on developing your core product. You’ll also make sure that you don’t spend more and more time on implementing and maintaining custom integrations while your customer base grows. 

Furthermore, building your own solutions usually pays off only on a large scale. That’s why it’s worth considering a buy (vs. built) decision while designing foundations for enabling your IT product to be ready for deployment in a rapidly growing customer base. Stay focused on developing your core product and make sure that you will not get stuck in implementing and maintaining custom integrations when your customer base grows.

3. Separate integrations from core systems development

Just as demonstrated above, by separating integrations from the development of your core system, you’ll be able to retain agility and competitive advantage. However, what’s even more crucial is the fact that a data sharing platform such as TrustedTwin will improve your system’s security. How so? It will act as a layer that will separate your system from many potential cybersecurity threats coming from the Internet, but also those posed by your customers. 

4. Ensure the right level of control

Ensuring an appropriate level of control and having access to the right scope of data will introduce trust to the ecosystem. All the while allowing those involved in the process to control the data they own. Those involved in the data sharing process will decide which data needs to be shared to reach the business goal.

Source: Unsplash

5. Ensure high availability, scalability, and reliability

Building integrations based on real-time data requires high data availability. Any delays, semi-automated processes relying on humans, or sending batches of data in a non-real-time manner puts the entire venture at risk. If you’re thinking of sharing data with other systems, do not look for trade-offs. Prioritize availability, scalability, reliability, and real-time access capabilities.

6. Make integrations between different systems smooth 

Sharing information and data or connecting to external data sources usually means: different domains (i.e. identities), standards, and technologies. In order to implement data-sharing capabilities, it’s vital to make integrations between various systems easy and smooth. 

Integrating systems to share operational data – how can Trusted Twin help? 

Let’s now take a look at how Trusted Twin can help you with integrations (i.e. sharing information and data) in an effective and safe way:

  • It buffers and separates all the communication between your and your customer’s systems so you don’t have to worry about scalability, availability, and security issues.
    • Trusted Twin takes care of almost all non-functional requirements related to sharing data across multiple systems. The platform:
    • Offers robust data access and ownership control capabilities (i.e., data governance and data sovereignty)
    • Gives you the freedom to choose the integration strategy and technology for each integrated system
    • Allows you to share data from multiple siloed systems without their replication
    • Guarantees availability at an enterprise level.
    • Guarantees global coverage, i.e., it offers the same speed and quality for clients all over the globe. It’s also designed for short and long-term seamless scalability.
    • Follows Information Security industry best practices and runs on SOC-2 certified infrastructure making it a trusted and secure option without the need to build your own infrastructure.

Integrating systems to share operational data – focus on your core products, and outsource the rest

When you’re facing the choice of how to handle integrations with multiple systems, our top recommendation can be brought down to three words: Buy, not build. While integrations are mission-critical, for a product company, they might not be something you’d like to spend most of your resources on as your customer base starts to grow. Ultimately, your core is your product. It’s common to see companies underestimating the future maintenance cost of dedicated and custom integrations. These include both those that relate to their own software and the infrastructure.

Separating integrations from your core systems’ development will help you retain agility and competitive advantage in the long term. You’ll find it particularly beneficial if you plan to grow fast. For this reason, it should be part of your growth strategy from the very beginning.

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Krzysztof Malicki
Krzysztof Malicki

Business and IT executive with a solid IT system development and design background combined with broad experience in business development and IT sector M&As. Direct experience and long-term relations in the telecommunications market in Poland. Formerly Chief Inventor and Designer of the largest Polish VoIP platform.

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